Alleluia, Christ is risen! Jesus, who died, is now risen and reigns with the Father. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. So, though we face all sorts of trials and challenges, pains and (in parts of the church) persecutions, we must not lose hope, but remain steadfast. We know that God wins, that goodness and life and love will prevail over evil, death and sin. So long as we are faithful to Christ we are on the winning side of history.
It’s important to base our confidence on God and on what he has done in the death and resurrection of Jesus, for that alone can give us a firm and constant hope in the midst of the many challenges we face. As we know, its not an easy time for the Christian Church in this country. Most churches are celebrating many more funerals than weddings, and the age profile of those attending Anglican (and many other) churches is weighted towards the over-70s. More and more people take secularism and materialism for granted. If there is room for spirituality, it is more about self help and self awareness than about communion with a creator God. Some parishes are struggling acutely. Others are undergoing gentle decline, gradually seeing attendances decline, gradually spending their reserves. One sign of this gradual reduction is that our ‘parish share’ which we pay the diocese each year is up 5.6%. Only 2% is due to increased costs, the rest is due to a smaller number of people to share the total costs between.
Two weeks before Easter representatives from all parishes in the diocese were asked to a meeting which was held locally at St Christopher’s called ‘Resourcing the Mission of God in Lancashire’. We heard a very inspiring talk from Sir John Spence, who had worked his way up to be a managing director of Lloyds Bank, despite going blind in his thirties. Since retirement he served as a Church Commissioner, helping them get back into profit after their investments suffered some years back, and now chairs the Finance Committee of the Archbishops’ Council. He is one of the key people working with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to try and help resource the church to grow. Money is being invested in projects which are designed to make a lasting difference – in this diocese this includes a church leadership hub for urban ministry at St James Lower Darwen and re-inventing Preston Minster as a major ‘resource church’ guided by Holy Trinity Brompton and training curates who can help transform churches in our diocese.
The message he gave was one of faith in God and of making bold decisions rather than settle for managed decline. Within our own diocese, we have Vision 2026 which is a call to do things differently. The vision is that healthy churches really can transform their communities, but for that to happen we need to be imaginative and not just ‘keep on doing what we’ve always done’. In line with the vision, the diocese is developing a leadership strategy which is positive and aimed at growth rather than managed decline.
We need a similarly positive, and faith-based attitude in our own parishes. We need to have confidence above all in the God who wonderfully created us and yet more wonderfully redeemed us in Jesus Christ. The God who raised Jesus from the dead and has all in his hands. We need to be positive about the opportunities open to us. And we need to be creative and unselfish in our approach to Church life, ready to try new things as we seek to proclaim the gospel afresh in this generation.
If God can raise Jesus from the dead, he can raise the Church in our country from its slumbers, and renew faith here in our nation. So this Eastertide let us renew our faith in the new life he brings and pray that with his help we and our whole diocese may be healthy churches transforming communities.
Yours in the risen Lord
Annual Parochial Church Meetings
Please do endeavour to get to the annual church meeting of your parish. As in previous years, we make this easy and hopefully enjoyable by placing the meeting within the context of Sunday morning worship. So Altham St James’ APCM is on 15th April at 9:30am and Clayton-le-Moors All Saints’ APCM is on Sunday 22nd April at 11am. It is an important opportunity to be informed about what is going on at your church, and the opportunities and challenges we face.
At the meetings we will elect Churchwardens for the coming year – they will then be admitted to office by the archdeacon on Monday 14th May at St Peter’s Laneside, in Haslingden. Nominations for the office of churchwarden must be made in writing and received before the start of the annual meeting.
We will also elect representatives of the laity to serve on the PCC for three years. At All Saints’ there are five regular vacancies, plus two casual vacancies (one for one year and one for two years). At St James’ there are two regular vacancies. Anyone who is at least 16, a regular communicant, and whose name has been on the electoral roll for at least 6 months, is eligible to stand for election (unless disqualified from serving as a trustee). PCC meetings are usually held every other month and there are some committees and working groups which meet in between. We hope that PCC members would see themselves as sharing in the leadership of the church and would be active in giving practical, moral and spiritual support to what is going on.
Transforming Lives for Good
St Christopher’s High School is setting up a new initiative, in collaboration with local parishes, called ‘Transforming Lives for Good’. Lay people will be trained to act as mentors to some of the more vulnerable pupils on a long-term basis (at least 1 year). It would be great if there were a few volunteers from these parishes to help with this important work. See the letter from St Christopher’s elsewhere in the magazine for more details.